In the brain tissue of 36 mice infected with herpes simplex virus type 1, strain F, we determined the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) with semiquantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The viral burden was quantitated by polymerase chain reaction. Nitric oxide, induced by iNOS, may contribute to neuronal cell damage following virus infection. As the experimental therapeutic strategy in herpes simplex virus encephalitis (HSVE), we used: N-nitro-L-arginin (L-NA), a selective inhibitor of iNOS; and combination therapies of either methylprednisolone/acyclovir or L-NA/acyclovir. The viral burden peaked in acute disease, and then returned to a low baseline value, except in untreated controls. The expression of iNOS mRNA was suppressed by L-NA and by acyclovir/corticosteroids. INOS inhibition may provide an additional therapeutic strategy targeted specifically to suppress iNOS expression as a potential secondary mechanism of tissue damage in acute and chronic HSVE.